Veterinarian helps endangered wild horses go home

Jun. 12, 2019 11:20:00

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Photo taken on May 28, 2019 shows Emtemah Ahanjan and a Przewalski's horse in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Photo by Xiong Congru

By Xuan Liqi, Xiong Congru, Guo Yan

More than 20 years ago, Emtemah Ahanjan, a veterinarian in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, decided to spend his life with the endangered Przewalski's horses.

The 46-year-old followed through with his decision. Twenty-one years ago, he started working at a breeding center in Xinjiang, where the horses are bred, rehabilitated and finally released into the wild in the Junggar Basin in northern Xinjiang.

Historically living in the basin, the Przewalski's horses almost went extinct. The breeding center successfully brought their population back up after decades of breeding using 24 Przewalski's horses from foreign zoos introduced into the center starting in 1986. There are now only about 2,000 Przewalski's horses in the world.

Przewalski's horses are wild and do not like humans getting close to them, let alone cure them when they are injured. Ahanjan still regrets failing to save the first horse that was born at the center, "Red Flower."

"She died during birth," he said, adding that if he was able to get closer he could have saved her life.

After her death, Ahanjan began to check every horse stall at the stables each day, noting the state of health and mood of every horse. He explored a series of methods to diagnose the horses without getting close to them through the sounds they make and their fresh dung.

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Photo taken on May 28, 2019 shows cubs of Przewalski's horses in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Photo by Xiong Congru

One of the horses bit him on the chest while he was treating her foal in 2002. "I was a little bit sad and angry that she did not understand I was saving her child at that time," he said.

In 2015, the center decided to release the horse into the wild since she had adapted to wild conditions. However, the horse did not want to leave Ahanjan. She ran more than five km chasing Ahanjan's car until his colleagues stopped her.

"I might never see her again, but the connection between us will not vanish," he said.

The breeding center now has more than 400 Przewalski's horses, and over 110 have been released into the wild.

"Although our generation did not see Przewalski's horses when we were kids, our children can see the horses run on the grasslands freely," he said. (URUMQI 2019-06-11 11:36:42)

Editor: Miao Hong

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